Skip Navigation

Federal Communications Commission

English Display Options

Commission Document

Denial of Seareka 869 MHz Man-Overboard Device Waiver Request

Download Options

Released: March 25, 2013

Federal Communications Commission

DA 13-543

Before the

Federal Communications Commission

Washington, D.C. 20554

In the Matter of
)
)

WHIFFLETREE CORPORATION INC.
)
WT Docket No. 12-176
)
Request for Waiver of Part 80 to Allow
)
Certification and Use of Seareka Maritime
)
Survivor Locating Device Operating on Frequency )
869 MHz
)

ORDER

Adopted: March 22, 2013

Released: March 25, 2013

By the Deputy Chief, Mobility Division, Wireless Telecommunications Bureau:
1.
Introduction. On April 30, 2012, Whiffletree Corporation Inc. (Whiffletree), on behalf of
Seareka, filed a request for waiver of Section 80.1061 of the Commission's Rules1 to permit equipment
certification and use of Seareka’s Maritime Survivor Locating Device (MSLD). 2 For the reasons set forth
below, we deny Whiffletree’s request for waiver.
2.
Background. MSLDs are intended for use by persons at risk of falling into the water
such as mariners and workers on marine installations or docks.3 They can be worn on or as part of a
garment or life jacket, and are intended to facilitate the rescue of personnel in the vicinity of their vessel
or structure so that immediate assistance can be rendered without a time-consuming and expensive search
and rescue operation. The Commission’s Rules do not currently permit certification or use of MSLDs.4
Consequently, MSLDs have been authorized by way of waiver of Section 80.1061, which authorizes
Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacons (EPIRBs).5 MSLDs differ from EPIRBs in that EPIRBs
transmit a digital signal on 406.0-406.1 MHz that is detected by the search and rescue satellite-aided
tracking (SARSAT)6 system operated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. MSLDs
do not meet all the requirements in Section 80.1061 because, in light of their narrower focus, MSLDs do
not operate on a frequency monitored by COSPAS-SARSAT, and do not transmit with as much power or


1 47 C.F.R. § 80.1061.
2 Letter to the Federal Communications Commission from George E. Lariviere, Vice President, Whiffletree
Corporation Inc., dated April 30, 2012 (Waiver Request).
3 MSLDs have sometimes been referred to as “man-overboard” devices. See, e.g., Wireless Telecommunications
Bureau Clarifies that Certain 121.5 MHz Devices Are Permitted Despite Termination of Satellite Processing of
121.5 MHz Distress Signals, Public Notice, 24 FCC Rcd 8483, 8483 (WTB MD 2009).
4 See Petition for Rulemaking to Amend Part 95 of the Commission’s Rules to Provide for Certain Personal Radio
Service Devices, RM-11667 (filed June 20, 2012) (proposing to amend the rules to, inter alia, authorize MSLDs).
5 See David Marshall, Letter, 13 FCC Rcd 23688, 23688-89 (WTB PSPWD 1998); Letter dated August 4, 2000
from D’wana R. Terry, Chief, Public Safety and Private Wireless Division, Wireless Telecommunications Bureau,
to Cal Havens, ACR Electronics; Briar Tek Incorporated, Order, 17 FCC Rcd 2204 (WTB PSPWD 2002);
McMurdo Limited, Order, 17 FCC Rcd 7999 (WTB PSPWD 2002); Briar Tek Incorporated, Order, 21 FCC Rcd
11979 (WTB MD 2006).
6 SARSAT is part of the international COSPAS-SARSAT system, a cooperative development of the United States,
Russia, Canada, and France. COSPAS is a Russian acronym that translates as "Space System for the Search of
Vessels in Distress."

Federal Communications Commission

DA 13-543

for as long as EPIRBs. Instead, MSLDs transmit on frequencies that are received on a device monitored
by personnel at the MSLD-wearer’s vessel or facility.
3.
Seareka’s MSLD operates on frequency 869.40-869.65 MHz. Whiffletree states that the
system is currently used for marine rescue in Europe and Asia and believes that it will enhance marine
safety in the United States by improving the efficiency of search and rescue operations.7 In the United
States, however, frequency 869.40-869.65 MHz is used for cellular telephone service.8 Whiffletree
argues that using a different frequency in the United States would have a negative impact by increasing
production costs, and impairing rescue efforts by reducing the number of vessels that receive the signal.9
It also argues that the Seareka system is unlikely to cause interference to cellular communications because
the MSLD uses a polite protocol that transmits only when the frequency is quiet, and transmits a short
(120 millisecond) low power (500 milliwatts) digital burst.10
4.
On June 27, 2012, we sought comment on Whiffletree’s waiver request.11 Other than
Whiffletree itself, commenters oppose the request.12
5.
Discussion. Section 1.925(b)(3) of the Commission's Rules provides that we may grant a
waiver if it is shown that (a) the underlying purpose of the rule(s) would not be served or would be
frustrated by application to the instant case, and grant of the requested waiver would be in the public
interest; or (b) in light of unique or unusual circumstances, application of the rule(s) would be inequitable,
unduly burdensome, or contrary to the public interest, or the applicant has no reasonable alternative.13
We find that a waiver is not warranted under the circumstances presented.
6.
As an initial matter, the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau, Public Safety and
Homeland Security Bureau, and Office of Engineering and Technology have previously stated that a
waiver should not be granted merely to accommodate a manufacturer’s choice of frequency that is based
solely on the frequency being harmonized for operation abroad.14
7.
Moreover, we are not persuaded that deployment of the Seareka MSLD in the United
States will have the safety benefits asserted by Whiffletree. Frequency 869 MHz is heavily used for
cellular base station operations throughout the United States including territorial waters and the Gulf of
Mexico, with a high probability that the frequency will be in use at any point in time. We agree with the
commenters that Seareka’s MSLD could cause harmful interference that could disrupt cellular
communications, including 911 calls, in coastal areas of the United States and other countries and in the


7 See Waiver Request at 2.
8 See 47 C.F.R. § 22.905(a).
9 See Waiver Request at 2.
10 Id.
11 See Wireless Telecommunications Bureau Seeks Comment on Request for Waiver of Part 80 to Allow
Certification and Use of Seareka Maritime Survivor Locating Device Operating on Frequency 869 MHz, Public
Notice
, WT Docket No. 12-176, 27 FCC Rcd 7176 (WTB MD 2012).
12 We received three comments and two reply comments. See Comments of Verizon Wireless dated July 27, 2012,
Comments of Sprint Nextel Corporation dated July 27, 2012, Comments of AT&T dated July 27, 2012, Reply
Comments of CTIA – The Wireless Association dated August 13, 2012, and Response of Whiffletree Corporation
and Seareka Maritime Survivor Locating Device (MSLD) dated August 13, 2012.
13 47 C.F.R. § 1.925(b)(3); see also WAIT Radio v FCC, 418 F. 2d 1153, 1159 (D.C. Cir. 1969).
14 See ReconRobotics, Inc., Order on Reconsideration, 26 FCC Rcd 5895, 5898 ¶ 10 (WTB/PSHSB/OET 2011)
(citing Terry Mahn, Esq., Letter, 21 FCC Rcd 14409 (WTB MD 2006)).
2

Federal Communications Commission

DA 13-543

Gulf of Mexico.15 Even 500 milliwatts is many times more power than the Commission permits for Part
15 unlicensed devices that have been found to be compatible with cellular operations.16
8.
Conversely, we are concerned that interference from cellular operations could make the
Seareka device ineffective on any body of water within range of these base station operations. If the
device transmits only when the frequency is quiet, there is a significant chance that a distress alert will not
be transmitted, or if transmitted will not be detected by the MSLD-wearer’s vessel or facility, due to
cellular traffic on the frequency.17 We therefore deny the waiver request.
9.
Accordingly, IT IS ORDERED, pursuant to Sections 4(i) and 303(i) of the
Communications Act of 1934, as amended, 47 U.S.C. §§ 154(i), 303(i), and Section 1.925 of the
Commission's Rules, 47 C.F.R. § 1.925, that the Request for Waiver filed by Whiffletree Corporation Inc.
on behalf of Seareka on April 30, 2012, IS DENIED.
10.
This action is taken under delegated authority pursuant to Sections 0.131 and 0.331 of the
Commission's Rules, 47 C.F.R. §§ 0.131, 0.331.
FEDERAL COMMUNICATIONS COMMISSION
Scot Stone
Deputy Chief, Mobility Division
Wireless Telecommunications Bureau


15 See AT&T comments at 10; Sprint comments at 4; Verizon Wireless comments at 7.
16 See 47 C.F.R. §§ 15.209. 15.231.
17 Verizon Wireless comments at 4.
3

Note: We are currently transitioning our documents into web compatible formats for easier reading. We have done our best to supply this content to you in a presentable form, but there may be some formatting issues while we improve the technology. The original version of the document is available as a PDF, Word Document, or as plain text.

close
FCC

You are leaving the FCC website

You are about to leave the FCC website and visit a third-party, non-governmental website that the FCC does not maintain or control. The FCC does not endorse any product or service, and is not responsible for, nor can it guarantee the validity or timeliness of the content on the page you are about to visit. Additionally, the privacy policies of this third-party page may differ from those of the FCC.